Laos :: People

Population: 6.5 million (July 2007 est.)
0-14 years: 41.2% (male 1.3 million; female 1.3 million)
The traditional greeting among Lao people is the "nop" - a slight bow of the head accompanied by both palms pressed together and raised to chest level, but not touching the body and not held above the nose.
Ethnic groups: Laos is a mountainous country and different ethnic groups live at different altitudes (heights) on the mountains.

Lao Loum (lowland Lao) + Lao Thai: 68% - along the Mekong River
Lao Theung (upland Lao): 22% - on slopes and hills up to an altitude of 900m
Lao Soung (highland Lao) including the Hmong and the Mien or Yao: 9% - in the mountainous areas
Ethnic Vietnamese/Chinese: 1% - cities
In the lowlands, villages usually are located close to rivers and roads. The houses are built on stilts for protection against floodwaters and they have thatched roofs made from leaves of coconut trees. In the highlands, the houses are built on the ground.
Religions: Buddhist 65%,
animist 32.9%,
Christian 1.3%,
other and unspecified 0.8% (1995 census)
Even though Laos is a communist state, religion is permitted. Most people are Theravada Buddhists. Many boys and young men become Buddhist monks for a period of time to earn merit - living a life of study and meditation to seek better understanding of Buddha's teachings. It is customary for Laotians to offer alms of food to Buddhist monks daily to earn merit. Each morning, a procession of monks will go on alms rounds to receive food from the laity.

National Geographic Video: Procession of monks at Luang Prabang

Many people embrace both Buddhism and animism as they see no contradiction between them. Spirit houses are commonly found in their homes.
Languages: Lao (official), French, English and various ethnic languages

Literacy rate: 68.7% (of those age 15 and above) can read and write (2001 est.)